Exactly 10 years ago this this month, I transitioned from my job as Youth Director at First Assembly of God in Shrewsbury, NJ to join the pastoral team at Calvary Lighthouse in Lakewood. I began serving there primarily because I could join their Ocean School of Ministry and work towards ordination as a pastor. My official title was Church Planting Intern and the plan was that I would be sent out from Calvary to plant a new church after a season of preparation. While my primary leadership was with music and media, I was given responsibilities rotating through every area of the church to get firsthand experience from the inside. I began to get excited about the prospect of planting a church.
I have to laugh at the extent that my plan had to change. The words of Isaiah are helpful:
In the specific context of chapter 55, this is an appeal to give up sinful ways in exchange for God’s ways which are infinitely better. But I like what the ESV study bible notes about this:
More broadly, theologians have recognized that God, the incomparable Creator, is far above his finite creatures and beyond their ability to describe him or comprehend him fully; though they may know him truly, such knowledge is always partial and imperfect. But because God is perfectly wise in all his thoughts and ways, his people can take great comfort amid hardship and when inevitably they are unable to understand the mysteries and tragedies of life.
– The ESV Study Bible (p. 1342).
Yes, that says it well. We cannot often comprehend God, what he does or why he does things. There are mysteries in this life that break my heart and confound my mind. Sometimes, however, He gives us the gift of seeing – the gift of understanding why things happen or why they don’t. I can’t begin to put all the pieces together of everything that has ever been broken in my life, but I can say without a shadow of doubt that 10 years ago wasn’t the time God had for me to start a church. There was way too much for me to learn. Walking through the cancer and the loss of a spouse, through a season as a single dad and finally, through the rebuilding of my family, God has taught me things I need so deeply to lead well.
So 10 years after assuming the role of Church Planting Intern, I’m happy to assume a new role as a Church Planter. My long-time friend Jared Murray and I are leading a new plant called Branch Church. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. In the meantime, here is a clip from our Branch Church Launch Plan. This is the timeline…and I still have to laugh looking at it.